Who is Joff?

Who is Joff?

My professional career spans over more than two decades in various roles, focused on delivering technology solutions to organisations – small businesses, nonprofits, corporate sector and government. I have been recognised by my peers as being able to help them better understand technoloigy, doing my small part to bridge the digital divide. I live, work and play on Whadjuk country (Western Australia), and with good fortune have spent most of my life living in or near Walyalup (Fremantle) – a destination for many, and a place to call home for those as fortunate as I am. Like many others, leaving secondary school I was not clear on what to study, or what type of career I wanted, and looked to get a job whilst I worked out just what looked like. The hospitality industry was quite accommodating to me whilst developing this understanding.​
An abstracted image of Leighton beach in North Fremantle, simplified to duotone blues and blacks.

The Wayback Machine of Work Experience

Dome Cafe in Fremantle

At the same time as I finished high school, and a short three years after Dome opened it’s doors to their first cafe in Cottesloe, I was fortunate to join the Team at Dome’s new flagship cafe on Fremantle’s “cappucino strip” alongside founders Patria Jaffries, Phil Sexton, and Phil May. The names are easy to recall more than 20 years later, as many of the skills and knowledge learnt are foundational and have been incredibly important in my career. Even before the doors of the cafe opened, the founders set about demonstrating how the coffee machine operates, stripping down components, explaining the functions and visiting the roasting house, tucked in the backstreets of Nedlands. Systems and processes were clearly comunicated, and standards established. Before long the doors opened to the cafe in Fremantle, welcoming a steady stream of customers into the cafe. 

On one particularly busy weekend, there was a staff shortage and one of the founders Patria was assisting in the cafe – emerging from the kitchen to empty and clean tables, then returning to the kitchen where I found her sleeves rolled up and busily stacking and washing the dishes. Asking if I could take over on these tasks so that she could replace me on the counter, she replied she was there “to fill the gap” and for me to return to the counter. This clear demonstration of leadership resonates with me to this day – good leaders do not lead from the front, they understand systems thinking and how to maintain business continuity. Fast forward a decade of working across a number of roles in the hospitality and retail industry, I once again found myself in a business on Fremantle’s “cappucino strip” managing a small, tucked away liquor store at the Sail & Anchor, Australia’s first craft brewery. Connecting with locals and visitors alike, I build rapport quickly, and found myself to be having a lively discussion over a post-work drink from which my next adventure began.

Adapting to change - truth stranger than fiction

It was of great concern to my family, that not long after the Bali bombings, I would be heading into a region of ongoing conflict, but nevertheless I had already packed my sense of adventure and curious wonder for different cultures, so found myself arriving at Dubai, boarding a flight to Kabul a few hours later. Over the following 6 months I navigated a high-risk working environment, carefully managing personal safety, negotiating with international suppliers to mitigate supply chain vulnerability, and implementing systems and processes that improved health outcomes, establishing offsite secure warehousing, inventory management, food safety practices and systems to maintain business continuity for the contracted services. Toward the end of the contract, I was offered ongoing employment, which I declined due to the worsening security climate. 
An aerial image of Southbound Music Festival 2007
A few weeks later, seated back on Fremantle’s cafe strip at the Sail and Anchor I mused over this with a friend, who was accompanied by a relative visiting from overseas – one who as it transpired, is one of the leadership team delivering a hugely popular music festival in the United Kingdom. Following the music coming from Esplanade Park a short walk away, we soon found ourselves in the midst of the popular West Coast Blues & Roots festival, talking with the event directors. I then commenced a roledelivering music festivals across Western Australia – West Coast Blues & Roots, Southbound, St Jerome’s Laneway Festival, Stereosonic and many others. After an impromptu audition with Cirque Du Soleil (although others might describe it as a serious motorcycle accident), I spent time recovering from the event with my family, visiting the south west region, home to the Southbound Music Festival.

You might sea change if you look for it

Some months later, drawn to the appeal of a “sea change” we moved to the south west, and I soon joined the team at the City of Busselton on their IT Helpdesk, where in my first year I received the “Rookie of The Year” award given to an employee who demonstrated excellent customer service in their first year of employment. Later promoted to a Web Specialist role, I went on to coordinate a project aimed at improving internal communications, commencing with redevelopment of the corporate intranet. Acquiring several new skills through practical experience and professional development, I discovered a passion – bridging a divide between technology systems and it’s users – what is now commonly reffered to as design thinking.

During this time, I was approached by a local event organiser who was desperately seeking help with their website, and as the “web guy” would I know of anyone who could help. I offered to meet with the organisers, and offered pro bono support to get them online. Leveraging my newly developed skills, I consulted the team to plan, design, build and launch the festival website, delivering a strong festival brand to an international audience. Shortly after the first annual event completed, I was asked to join the board to help coordinate digital projects. During my time with the festival , I planned and implemented an embedded ticketing system, integrated ticket scanning capabilities, digital printing systems for festival accreditation, as well as management and maintenance of the festival website and digital channels. The enhanced capability to drive online activity for the festival saw the festival sell out key events across the 5 day event in near record time, and led to significant long term growth of the festival.

Lifelong learning in the digital age

Returning to Perth in 2014, I started consulting to organizations to help manage change brought about by the emergence of new technologies, and the dynamically variable shifts in consumer behaviour. Working across local and state government, resources, financial services, media, non-proft associations and the small business sector, I gained considerable exposure to diverse contexts, and complex business challenges that drive the digital transformation agenda. Throughout my professional experience, the only constant has been change, and the recurrent theme for successful digital transformation has been to ensure a technology agnostic approach, putting customer needs, human centered design, and technology agnostiscism as key drivers to successful implementation of any project.

Having developed my knowledge in this area through predominantly fieldwork and professional appointments, I made a decision to return to study in 2018, completing a Graduate Diploma of Web Communications in 2019, and graduating with the Murdoch University Academic Award for Postgraduate Studies. This field of research richly is interwoven with elements of sociology, psychology, neuroscience, and emerging technologies, and drove me to refocus my studies on lifelong learning in an adult education context.

The success with studies continued for the most part, until the COVID-19 pandemic reached Western Australia, digital transformation occured faster than it ever had before. Almost overnight, the education sector had to pivot to online learning, health services had to embrace telehealth, and remote working was adopted by organizations needing to maintain a modicum of business continuity. Many other businesses were not able to continue – and most of all, every individual had to embrace these changes also, myself included. 

With restrictions limiting travel and social interactions, we then all were joining online classes and meetings where people learnt how to manage their new primary work tool. The digital transformation across multiple industries was a significant change, and at a rapid pace never previously experienced. Shares in tech stocks such as Zoom skyrocketed, and driven by need, overlooked technologies such as QR codes met a need, and became widely adopted – for what was previously an underutilised and misunderstood technology. 

Many technologies have come and gone, some of the products that were able to adapt to rapid change have retained their user base longer term, becoming household names and delivering the products and platforms adopted by milllions of users globally. Across these organisations, a consistent approach has been seen – one which sets focus upon the user – a human being. Human centered design is the most effective strategy for successful digital transformation, and it’s impact can be felt globally as communities, organizations and individuals deal with the effects of rapid change brought about by the pandemic. It’s why I embrace the changing landscape of technologies, working to share my knowledge and skills with others, whilst simultaneously learning from them, sharing diverse perspectives to reach a common understanding and achieve shared goals.

What's Joff been up to recently?

Recently I have had the distinct pleasure in helping the small business owners to build digital skills, bridging the digital divde and strengthening the continuity and capability of the small businesses they own or operate. Working remotely across a team of 30 advisors to delliver the “Digital Solutions” program on behalf of the Australian Government, I have been fortunate to meet with, and support many amazing small businesses looking to make a difference for our community.  I am by no means an expert. Any who claim a title, have placed a flag in a point in time that’s going to become irrelevant faster than ever before. I am a continuing lifelong learner – an essential practice to remain relevant in the digital space. There is always change – there always has been. I am always inspired by hearing diverse perspectives on, well just about everything, and building a shared understanding that co-creates valuable outcomes. If that interests you, then connect with me, send me a message or connect with me on socials.

Best wishes